Moving Coil vs Moving Magnet Phono Cartridges

Choosing the right component for your turntable such as the phono cartridge is very important because they make direct contact with your records and they are very essential to your turntable. However, there are two types of phono cartridges used for turntables, they are Moving Coils and Moving Magnets. They both are transducers that convert one form of energy to another which are mechanical energy and electrical energy.

Wondering what moving coils and moving magnets are? Well, to learn more about the workings of a moving coil and moving magnet instrument, read on. This article will discuss the basic principles of moving coils and moving magnets and you will get to know what they entail, their differences, and their similarities.

 What is a Moving Coil?

A moving coil is an electromechanical device that moves based on a current flowing through it. These devices are used to create induced currents in electronic devices, microphones, and record player pick-ups, and are commonly found in musical instruments. 

A moving coil galvanometer is an instrument that measures electric currents. A moving coil galvanometer has an extremely sensitive electromagnetic system that can measure even microampere-level currents. When a current-carrying wire enters a magnetic field, it experiences a magnetic torque. The angle through which the coil deflects is proportional to the amount of electricity flowing through it. The resulting voltage is used in electronics.

A moving-coil instrument is used to measure voltage and current. The current being measured creates a magnetic field inside the coil. The interaction between this induced field and the current causes a torque in the coil, causing the pointer to move on the scale. The torque can be controlled using a spring or an eddy current damping system. Often, the moving-coil instrument is used to test electrical current in an electrical circuit.

The workings of a moving-coil galvanometer are very similar to a circuit with an open switch. When no current flows through a moving-coil instrument, no magnetic field is generated. This makes the moving-coil instruments useful in determining current strength. The control torque in a moving-coil instrument is provided by gravity and a spring. This gives the meter the ability to measure different current levels and voltages.

 What is a Moving Magnet?

A moving magnet cartridge is an audio device that converts energy to sound. It is used in stereo equipment and connects a vibrating cantilever with a pair of magnets. The tiny magnets vibrate in close proximity to coiled wires and generate a small electrical current. The moving magnetic cartridge is a sturdy device, and it can produce moderate to high levels of output. The cartridge has a user-replaceable stylus.

It is an electrical instrument used in recording sound. It is located inside a fixed coil and moves when a current flows through it. The movement of the coil causes the magnetic field around the instrument to generate an electrical current. The term moving magnet dates back to the early 19th century, and it was first used in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. A typical output of a moving magnet cartridge is about five millivolts.

These moving magnet cartridges are also called moving coil cartridges. These records contain a miniature permanent magnetic field and two coils, which induce a small current. This technology has lower tracking forces and a simpler phono stage. However, it’s not without its disadvantages. A moving magnet cartridge can be quite expensive, so if you are looking to save money, this might not be the best choice. A moving magnet cartridge can be used to record digital music.

Differences between  Moving Coils and  Moving Magnets

You may be wondering what the differences are between a moving coil and a magnetic cartridge. These two types of cartridges use different kinds of magnets and produce slightly different levels of output. A moving coil cartridge requires special hardware, such as a phono preamp, while a magnetic cartridge does not need a separate piece of hardware. The main difference between the two types of cartridges is that a magnetic cartridge produces higher output levels. The two main types of stylus assemblies are used in a digital phono player.

A moving coil cartridge uses a permanent magnet mounted at the end of a cantilever to turn the groove in a record into an electrical signal. A moving magnet cartridge is more expensive, but it is easier to assemble and costs less than a magnetic cartridge. The moving coil cartridge has advantages over a magnetic cartridge, too, including the possibility of a wider bandwidth and higher quality low-level retrieval. It does, however, have a few disadvantages. Its output is extremely low – around 0.2 millivolts – and it is difficult to amplify without a step-up amplifier.

Which is Better?

While both moving coil and magnetic cartridges generate high-quality audio, they have different characteristics. A moving coil cartridge is usually more expensive than a magnetic cartridge, but it has lower output levels and is often required to be used in combination with a head amp. It is also more difficult to use a magnetic cartridge with a magnetic cartridge. For this reason, most audiophiles prefer a magnetic cartridge.

A moving coil cartridge’s disadvantages are lower output levels and higher weight, which make it more efficient in tracking along a record surface. The latter is also more susceptible to noise and interference. A magnetically-powered magnetic cartridge has a lower output voltage and is more likely to be prone to distortion.

Unlike a magnetic cartridge, a moving coil cartridge generates less output than a magnetic one. It requires a head amp to turn the signal from analog to electrical. Regardless of the type, the result will be lower than the signal produced by a moving magnet, so you must choose the one that works best for your situation.

The difference between a moving coil and a magnetic cartridge is important because of the differences between these two types of cartridges. In general, the former is more powerful while the latter is more expensive. It generates more output voltage than its magnetic counterpart. A moving magnet cartridge produces more output than a moving coil. This is the reason why a magnetically-powered digital player needs a moving coil to get the same signal.


Most discerning audiophiles opt for moving coil because of its precision, details, and designs. Although not everyone has the capacity to buy the moving coil because of its cost which is why they go for a moving magnet because of its replaceable styli. Also, not everyone has the inclination to run a moving coil cartridge because its sound quality and performance are not distinct just as a moving coil does.

So, therefore, you should go for the one that best suits you in terms of performance, cost, design, and sound.  



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